Friday, November 19, 2010

Who Knew Leaving Leaving Bogotá Would Be More Dangerous...

Last weekend was both rainy (not surprising) and a holiday weekend (somehow, also not surprising since there are like 2 a month), and everyone cool was going out of town. So we were very excited when our school organized a little day trip to a pueblita outside of Bogotá for some sun, pool time, white water rafting, and the ability to say that "oh, yeah, we left the City too." (Even if it was not for the whole 3 day weekend). Some of the longer term students had done the trip in the past and told us that the rafting was relatively tame, so our "expectativas" were pretty low, but at the very least, the trip would not involve a rainy and cold day.

We left Bogotá early Saturday morning and drove up and down picturesque mountains, through fog, and along dirt roads, passing the biggest (live) spider I have ever seen, a dead snake, and other unidentifiable fauna, and soon entered the tropical climate zone that surrounds this mountainous city.

Once in our bathing suits and Marc Jacobs flip flops, (this has significance later), we donned our life jacket and helmet, got in the van with the group and headed to the the Rio Negro, called such because of all the minerals in it that make it appear black (see photos). Once we arrived, our training was all in Spanish, but luckily one of our profs was there to remind us what "adelante" and "atras" and "izquierda" meant so we didn't all paddle the wrong way at the wrong time and go around in circles.

One other student asked us to remind him what to do if we fall in the river, and, relying on our present view of the river and what we were told by other students, we said that no one will fall in so don't even worry about it.

Well, within 4 minutes of entry, we realized that because of a lot of recent rain, the currents were much stronger and water levels higher, and we then saw that our "expectativas" were all wrong. After a few "a delante"s yelled at us, the raft hit a rapid the wrong way. . . and. . . we flipped over!

Stuck under the raft in darkness and with 6 other bodies on top of us, all flowing along a strong current in black as night water was pretty frightening, we must say. But we surfaced soon enough, somehow still in possession of our oar, and managed to lift our legs up as told (we remembered! Oops, we forgot to tell our friend!) so that rocks did not kill us. We then watched as the guide flipped the raft back over (while it was moving with the current!), pull the first of us in, and then manage to grab the rest of us one by one, notably NOT with the assistance of the two kayakers who follow the raft for occasions such as this. Upon reentry into the raft and assuring ourselves that we were all alive and present, we realized that two casualties of this harrowing experience were the aforementioned Marc Jacobs flip flops, but we were willing to exchange these cheap plastic designer goods for our life. However, just then, one of the kayakers pulls up next to the raft and hands us said flip flops as if it was expected of him. We then realized the TRUE reason for the kayakers, which is to preserve our material possessions, for which we were truly grateful, and we are sure Rachel Zoe was also really happy and proud as well.

This does not bode well.

This is right before our dreams of a perfect 10 came crashing down...

But this is what a strong finish looks like.

The rest of the trip was less crazy, we managed to stay in the raft (barely) and make it back for some lunch and pool time and recaps of how we survived the Rio Negro. Video coverage of said survival here:

Mañana it is off to Peru where we meet the fam! We are excited to see them and Peru, but really, we are more excited about the Indian food mom promised to smuggle into the country.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Una Cena Hindu...

When we think of Diwali, we mostly think of great Indian food, either prepared for us by family, or prepared by us and great friends working together. It thus gave us great sadness that as Diwali approached, the horizon was filled only with the same arroz, carne, platanos, y ensalada that we eat every…single…day here. So you can imagine how happy we were when una amiga, MA, a renowned chef and caterer here in Bogotá, called us and said she was planning on making an Indian feast for Diwali, filled with good food and candles.

We could hardly contain our excitement, and arose early that morning to head to Paloquemao, a giant produce, meat, and flower market here in town. Photos below, courtesy of our classmate and amiga AM, given that our camera is muerta.

"We're picante"

"We're thirsty."

"Joke's on you! We're fresher than your farmer's market's chickens."

We arrived at MA’s apartment, strung up some lights, and started acting as sous-chef immediately. MA was making pakoras, rogan josh (lamb), raita, and rice, served with several different chutneys and lots of vino. Now, we have learned how to make some decent Indian food during our brief time in the kitchen, but never have we attempted to make pakoras, which require dipping chopped vegetables in special batter and deep frying them to the an exact level of crispiness that we thought could only be achieved by those called “mom” or “aunt.” We were thoroughly impressed with MA's mastery in the arts of Indian snacks.

We also partially DJ'ed the evening, and taught a room full of Colombians the art of screwing in the lightbulb and turning the doorknob (aka, bhangra dancing). Overall, a very successful and delicious evening, and it made us miss home that much less!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Disfraces y Disgraces

We know this is muy tarde, but Halloween (Halloween en español), here was muy loco. CR, JH and we procured some cowboy hats and leather vests and were the gayest cowboys since Ennis and Jack. Our destination was Massai, a club up in the hills overlooking Bogota, with a sort of ET arriving in LA kind of feel. Apparently, the entire city was also going up the hill to La Calera, since the traffic was epic, but at least we encountered things like this along the way:

This thing was actually doing the driving.

People really went all out, there were of course many Chilean Miners, Avatars, and unrecognizable things that were just excuses for people to be shirtless. So really, this phenomenon of using Halloween to be skanky is global.

There were a lot of this kind of thing going on.

Rodney Dangerfield and Jonathan Brandis were smiling down from heaven.

We met up with some new friends of ours, bought bottles of various things, and unfortunately (or fortunately) stayed out until 2 hours before CR and JH had to leave for the airport to go home. In the morning, after we woke up in a cold sweat afraid that they had missed their cab, we ran to the little hotel behind our house, and the lady at the desk informed us that beers were consumed at 6am and were apparently unpaid for. Apparently this is a Colombian hangover (guayabo) cure that CR and JH learned on their own.

Overall, their visit was very successful and we have learned that they have only just recovered...

Monday, November 08, 2010

All the Coolest Travel Destinations Have Day Long Traffic Jams...

Apparently, when JH travels with friends, the G*ds conspire to stick him in excessive traffic jams with limited amounts of snacks. This happened during his Great Asian Adventure, and it, unfortunately for us, happened again on our journey to Parque Tayrona from Cartegena that sunny Tuesday morning.

The morning started off with promise, when the driver told us he could take us directly to the Park instead of dropping us of in Santa Marta, as we were originally told, from where we would have had to take additional modes of transportation. But soon after we passed the birthplace of Shakira, things went downhill.

Apparently, there was a protest near Santa Marta, during which those fighting the good fight for economic and social justice forced a shutdown of the one road into town, leaving us to fight the heat for 3.5 hours with only a few packets of cookies. Once we realized what was going on, JH quickly emailed EKK and AK, his Asia travel companions, and they advised us to ration the snacks and take care not to share them with any of the strangers on the bus. JH made sure not to share them with the Israeli backpackers behind us, and in return, one of the girls gifted him her cold, but this we did not realize until 24 hours later.

It was hotter than it looks.

The traffic jam forced us to spend the night in Taganga, a small fishing village that has apparently become a destination for European and Israeli backpackers, and a jumping off point for visits to Parque Tayrona. We ended up at a cute hostel that was apparently hosting a model convention of some sort, since everyone there was stunning and shirtless. One tall and handsome boy from Chicago bought a beer at the snack bar and talked to us about our impending move there for 10 minutes before saying that he had to run and take his friend to a doctor because she probably had Yellow Fever. Are there doctors in small fishing villages slash crunchy party towns? We hope that we need not ever answer this question. Also, we give you all permission to buy a beer and chat with strangers for 10 minutes if we are ever facing a potentially life-threatening mosquito-transmitted disease (although we are vaccinated against Yellow Feves for the next 10 years).

After a dinner of sandwiches on baguettes and some beers next to European jugglers, we rested under mosquito nets and headed Parque Tayrona in the morning via two buses. Upon our arrival to the park, we began our three hour adventure through the mud, up hills, and along beaches.

On the way, one German boy asked us to take shirtless pictures of him (with his own camera) lying down on a big rock. Of course, we used this opportunity to take some pictures of him with our own camera as well. However, the camera G*ds must have been angry, because soon thereafter, we tried to cross a large pool of water with our camera in our pocket, and suddenly found ourselves in waist deep in water and our own camera is now dead. DEAD. We hope the blog does not suffer due to this tragedy, but rest assure dear reader(s), we will make amends.

No, seriously, he asked us to do this. (But not to take a picture of us doing it).

After finally reaching Cabo (basically like Cabo in Mexico, with only slightly fewer young, drunk people), we rented some hammocks, changed, and of course, ran into a friend from college, AG, on the beach. AG, being involved the theatre scene in New York, said that when she saw three American boys in short bathing suits on the beach, she figured she had to know at least one of us, and, Lo-han and behold, she did.

The park and its beaches are really something else, and, despite the heat and mosquitoes, we think it’s really one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen. We were sad to leave the next day to head back to Bogota, wary about getting on a plane with mud caked on our legs and sand in our sweaty hair. But the Colombian airport security officials took pity on us and let us on, and we made it back safe and sound.

Still to come, Halloween in Bogota = Loco.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


We are sorry dear reader(ship) for the long absence, but we were very busy this past week hosting JH and CR in Bogota and elsewhere. It all began last Saturday when they arrived at the airport. Tia M offered to drive us to pick them up, and after JH came out first, she and him spoke in French for 30 minutes and we were left to develop our language skills on our own. Many a tall white person emerged from the arrivals hall, but only the last one was CR.

After settling JH and CR into the hotel/motel/hostel like structure behind the house, we headed to the big gay night club in town, where our hair started to vibrate due to the amount of bass pumping into the venue. Luckily, we were rescued by a new friend JS who showed us that there were in fact 1092812 more rooms in the club, including 2-3 roof terraces where the noise level was seriously reduced.

Sunday, we left for the coastal colonial city of Cartagena, and were greeted with warm sun, which we realized we had been missing here in cool Bogotá. The old city was really charming, despite the fact that it was DRY (as in, not not wet, but no alcohol was sold), because of some elections. The idea of not drinking on election night, (especially today’s), was not something we were used to. CR, JH and we managed to find one bar willing to serve us beer in coffee cups, behind a big plant, in order to evade the authorities.

Si, Cervesa

On Monday, after some yelling in Español at the women who sold us a ride on a boat without telling us that we would need to pay more to get on the dock in order to get on the boat, we ended up at the lovely Playa Blanca, where, praise Xenu, they sold beer. This was especially helpful given that the boat that we paid for had a motor from 1945 that gave out approximately 23 times. During the adventure, however, we made a new friend from Buenos Aires with whom we practiced our Español, and from whom we snagged an invite to her country home! See, from adversity comes great things.

Still to come: street protests, Israeli hippies, and dead cameras…